When I first got the idea for the interview section of this blog, I knew I wanted to share stories from people who I looked up to and admired for their self belief, ambition and for being true to them self no matter what. In an age of self doubt and fear of what other people might say and think, Ify is someone I’ve always looked up to for her belief in her incredible talent and the pursuit of turning her biggest passion into a career.
Ify Obanye is an upcoming Soul, Blues and RnB performer with vocals like you’ve never heard before. She has performed across the UK, from small intimate settings to large venues including the O2 Academy Islington, Under The Bridge, The Spice of Life, Blues Kitchen, Rich Mix and Shepherd’s Bush Empire where she performed her first original song ‘Before I Met You’. Her EP ‘Live & Personal’ launched in July 2018 and provided an insight into who Ify really is as a musician and what her music is all about. It features 5 tracks around the theme of relationships, love, pain, aspirations and success.
But Ify’s music isn’t just about an isolated listening experience through headphones. Ify is a passionate live performer who, in her own words, tackles every show with the aim of leaving her audience “fully entertained and compelled to get involved”. She really values the importance of performing live and making it so her audience will never just be static listening to someone who can sing but immersed in an unforgettable experience that showcases her immense natural talent.
At the moment, Ify is currently taking a break and writing some new material which she says will show us a different side of her that we haven’t yet seen, but if you’d like to hear Ify’s music then please click here.
Your voice is an incredible gift and one that you do right to share with the world. Can you describe the moment you knew that you wanted to make music?
This is quite hard to answer because I honestly feel like there wasn’t just one moment when I knew music was what I wanted to do, explore and be a part of. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember, from church to my school gospel choir to performing at open mics to hosting my own gigs. No matter what I’m doing, I always gravitate back to music and singing. I can’t shake it and I don’t want to.
One moment that always comes to mind was my uni Sports Ball. I had performed at Sheffield Hallam’s Sport Ball for the 4 years that I’d been studying there. The first year I was actually invited to sing as part of a band whose lead singer could no longer make it and then the organisers invited me to perform solo the following year and then for the next 2 years after that. I started my set with ‘Treasure’ by Bruno Mars and within seconds the dance floor was filled with people dancing and singing along with me. I knew there and then that this was what I wanted to always do. I didn’t want to let go of the wonderful feeling I had felt on stage that night. Ever since then I’ve been doing everything I can to keep hold of that feeling and to ensure all those that see me perform leave with having truly felt the love that I have for my passion and my craft.
You speak incredibly passionately about performing and showcasing your talent on stage. Can you describe what it feels to be performing in front of a live audience?
I think the best way I can describe it is to compare it to a rollercoaster ride. Here’s my logic – you’re always a little nervous in the queue when you’re waiting to go on, you see the ride and you think it will be terrifying. The second the ride starts you start screaming but then the screaming turns into laughter and you question why you were ever scared in the first place. Once it’s over you’re so happy that you did it and then you get the buzz, that thrill that tends to last even after the ride is over.
I do get nervous before each gig but the second I’m on stage I feel my nerves slip away and the most confident and expressive version of myself is unleashed. As cheesy as it sounds I feel free! I feel safe and the only time I get to be me or at least the best version of me. It’s my time, my space, mine.
It definitely takes a lot of confidence to do what you do. Who do you look up to and take influence from?
I take a lot of inspiration mainly from strong female vocalists such as Jennifer Hudson, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan and Janelle Monae, but I also love discovering new, upcoming artists that are different and unique. I’m currently listening to Tori Kelly, Tank and The Bangas, Sinead Harnet, Yebba, H.E.R and Anne-Marie.
Really I take inspiration from those who are passionate about what they do. I love strong and unique voices and admire those that not only sing but those that can also perform and entertain.
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
The proudest moment so far was the creation and release of my first EP – ‘Live & Personal’ which was released on 12th July 2018. It was the first ever project that I could call my own and was made up of original material. I’d always thought that I could sing but never write. It wasn’t until I went through something difficult that I realised that I could channel all these real life emotions and experiences onto paper. When doing so, I wasn’t afraid of whether it sounded pretty or what I thought others may like to hear. My songs were purely a product of real feelings and real emotions that simply poured out organically. It really is true when they say you draw from your emotions and that’s what I wanted – I wanted it to be raw and true.
I was so proud after my EP Launch because I set myself a goal to do this and it actually happened. I did it all by myself, with no managers, agents or team. From the original idea of the EP to organising the photoshoots, video shoots, recording, liaising with venues and organisations, to managing the band’s schedule and working with up to 10 musicians. I even did the event managing and marketing by myself. It was the most stressful year but the most rewarding and I couldn’t be any happier that I took the plunge and did it.
It must be incredibly liberating to be totally in charge of your own musical direction, although I can imagine that taking sole responsibility for all aspects from production to promotion can be really stressful. How has using social media helped you to get to where you are?
Social media is a tricky one because it has become the newest way for people and artists to communicate and is so ingrained in our daily lives that sometimes it becomes second nature to post about our every move, our next gig and our next project. As an artist, this is something we have to do in order to help get our names and content out there for all to listen to. It’s been great when promoting my upcoming gigs, music releases and connecting with other likeminded artists and creative individuals.
However I do also feel that social media doesn’t portray what’s actually real. It shows a snapshot of what we want people to think we are and only shows the good parts. It’s so competitive and can be so consuming. Some people concentrate on raking in as many followers as possible just because it makes them look like they’re super popular rather than really working on connecting with the right kinds of people who’d appreciate their music. It also makes you feel like you have to be, act and look a certain way. There’s so much pressure now on artists to look the part, be unique and stand out more than ever before.
I guess there are pros and cons of the use of social media, but there is no denying that it is another great platform to showcase your music to a wider audience on an international scale.
Social media definitely seems to be a double edged sword but one that potentially could mean a huge career leap if the right person sees your content at the right time. What is your ultimate musical goal?
I have many goals for my musical career but the next one I’m aiming for is to perform at a large festival like Isle of Wright, Latitude, Coachella or Glastonbury. That would just be incredible.
I can only imagine how great a feeling that would be! It would be a real ‘I’ve made it’ moment. Do you find you perform for success or for enjoyment?
I perform for enjoyment and love of what I do, but it also does marry up with success. You always want to be successful in what you do and the more successful I am then the more opportunities that may arise for me to continue to keep performing and doing what I love to do. It’s so important to be driven by both enjoyment and success but it’s so important that you always remember why you do what you do and to not get lost in the need to solely be successful. Never let that trump what’s really important to you.
If you have a day where you doubt yourself and your ability to bring your passion to life, what do you do to make yourself feel uplifted again?
When I’m down or start to doubt myself, I either listen to music, go to a dance class or surround myself with my closest friends and family. I am lucky enough to have a good support network around me that I can always rely on when things get a little tough.
Another thing I do is to always find ways to remind myself of why I do what I do and all the wonderful experiences and people I’ve met along the way. At my EP Launch I brought in foam boards for people to write on and a lot of people wrote some lovely comments and messages which always remind me of why I do what I do. Their words showed me that no matter what obstacles I face, I have managed to touch someone else’s life and mood with my music. Those boards are hung up in my room, always reminding me.
Your outlook on the positives of going for your dreams, both when it is going well and when your might be feeling a little self doubting, is something I really admire. Pursuing a talent or a dream is something all of us want to do but a lot of us feel scared to do. If you could give people advice on going for their goals and making their passions their reality, what would you say?
Never give up and always remember the love you have for your craft as that will help push you further to where you want to go and where you need to be. Be resilient and surround yourself with people who want to see you grow and encourage you to be the best version of you.
Believe in yourself – if you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect others too? And finally, don’t forget to enjoy the journey!
If you could sum up your outlook on life in one statement, what would it be?
Life is way too short to live it simply and with little to no adventure. Don’t let fear chain you up and stop you from living the life you always wanted.
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